A showcase of some of the best examples of innovative hotel design around the world, from biophilic villas in the Maldives to unique woodwork in Slovenia and a repurposed vintage basketball court in LA
Words by Toby Maxwell
Monastero Arx Vivendi Arco, Italy
THE MONUMENTAL spaces of a 17th century monastery are brought back to life in Arco, Alto Garda, where architecture practice noa has transformed them into a unique hotel, while conserving the charm of the original architecture and its atmosphere of peace and meditation.
The mission was to renovate the Monastery Serve di Maria Addolorata in the centre of Arco, situated at the northern tip of Lake Garda. The complex is encompassed by a high surrounding wall and dates back to the second half of the 17th century. Half of the monastery building – which also hosts a church and cloister, where nuns continue to live – has been left untouched and in 2020, work on the hotel project began in close collaboration with the Trento Office of Cultural Heritage.
The bathroom of the Loggia suite, which looks onto the mountains of Arco. Image Credit: ALEX FILZ PHOTOGRAPHY
The project consisted of two main phases. First, the renovation and conversion of the monastery and its interiors to become a hotel, achieved by creating common spaces (including reception, lobby, breakfast room, bar area and kitchen) on the ground floor with the rooms mainly distributed between the first floor and the loft. Second, a new wellness area was developed within the gardens, comprising 500m2 of relaxation rooms, treatment rooms, saunas and a wellness course with steam bath.
Francesco Padovan, the noa architect who developed the project, said: ‘It is a refuge that takes you back in time, closely centred around the history and the particular features of this place. And where every construction choice, every material and detail, has been studied to draw on the majesty of the pre-existing context, exalting it and giving it new life.’
The breakfast room is embellished with a rib vault ceiling. Image Credit: ALEX FILZ PHOTOGRAPHY
With its 40 rooms (including two suites), the underlying idea for the design of the Monastero Arx Vivendi was to maintain the typical monastery architecture, preserving the original design of the internal paths and paying close attention to the choice of materials and colours. ‘It is a design philosophy that guided us and helped us maintain the compositional, static and visual clarity that makes a monastery such a special place,’ said Padovan.
Completely enclosed by a 7m boundary wall with its original appearance preserved, internally the monastery is distributed across three levels. ‘It is a bit of a surprise to discover that the spaces on every floor are structured in very different ways,’ explained Padovan. ‘The concentric spaces of the ground floor contrast with the majestic corridor of the first and then there is the mass of wooden beams in the loft. We paid close attention to this variety of environments, developing solutions that did not alter the various designs but which strengthened their charm and originality.’
the first floor contains former monastic cells, joined two-by-two to create larger rooms. Image Credit: ALEX FILZ PHOTOGRAPHY
As such, the development of the common spaces on the ground floor emphasised the existing plan of the monastery – located along the central axis is the reception, the breakfast room and a reading room/lounge, all embellished with beautiful rib vault ceilings and surrounded by a long continuous corridor.
The scenery changes on the first floor where the central corridor is lined by ceiling beams, which stretch out to a length of almost 50m. Here, the former monastic cells, aligned along the sides, were joined two-by-two to create larger rooms. In this way, in each room one ‘cell’ constitutes the bedroom, while the other hosts the bathroom. The old doors, in light wood, were all conserved on the external side, along the hallway, to maintain the striking spectacle of the entrances that dotted the long corridor.
On the second floor, a large loft area is topped by eye-catching trusses, which host two lines of rooms that open out onto a long central corridor. The restored wooden trusses pay homage to their original function. At the highest point of the roof, a skylight runs right along the length of the ceiling, not only illuminating the corridor but also the rooms thanks to the transom windows.
Newly developed in the monastery garden, the spa consists of seven light glass and metal volumes positioned along a stone spine. The alternation of glass bodies and green courtyards creates an pattern of advanced and set-back volumes. ‘When designing this area our aim was to create a dialogue more with the surrounding agricultural landscape than with the monastery, a little too ‘powerful’ in architectural terms,’ explains Padovan. ‘To do this we used very simple elements with strong structural clarity. The light metal framework, organised in pillars and beams, is inspired by the characteristic lemon houses of rural Lake Garda.’
The interiors maintained the historic attention to detail. The original ceilings and decorations in the common spaces on the ground floor were conserved and restored, with dominant shades in white, grey and black, the historic colours of the monastery.
The large breakfast room is dominated by a long central table that recalls the ancient refectory and has smaller tables positioned along the walls. In the bar area and buffet room, a restored well and fireplace have been adapted into buffet islands.
On the first floor, the central corridor has been deliberately left free of furnishings. All of the rooms feature floors in handplaned oak for the bedroom and natural-look tiles for the bathroom. Black has been chosen for the furniture, including that of the bathroom, standing out against the grey of the rooms. Everything is custom-designed, including the metal four-poster beds with black oak inserts.
‘The design project was guided by our complete respect for the existing architecture,’ explains interior designer Niccolò Panzani of noa, who oversaw the interior design project. ‘The design was adapted to the austere monastic spaces with tailored solutions, without compromising on comfort, functionality and contemporary aesthetics.’
Proper Hotel Los Angeles, US
Kelly Wearstler took inspiration from Spanish, Portuguese, Mexican and Moroccan design for the interiors. Image Credit: THE INGALLS
WITH CITY LIGHTS and vintage brick as the backdrop, Proper reimagines and updates a landmark in the heart of LA’s fashion district into a 148-room destination hotel. The creative vision of designer Kelly Wearstler blends past and present with design, vintage influences and local art. Essentials include two restaurants led by award-winning LA chef Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne, an intimate lounge, and a city-view rooftop pool and lounge-bar- restaurant. There are also two singular, one-of-a-kind suites fashioned from the building’s sporting club past.
100 different kinds of tile are used throughout the hotel. Image Credit: THE INGALLS
Wearstler has sought to carefully layer the building’s vestiges of the 1920s with elements of Spanish, Portuguese, Mexican and Moroccan design. In addition to vintage furniture and rugs, there are more than 100 different kinds of tile used throughout, from hand-painted to vintage to custom commissioned and fabricated.
the building is a landmark of LA’s fashion district. Image Credit: THE INGALLS
Residential in feel, each of the rooms and suites is individual, with curated vintage pieces and specially designed furnishing, hand-applied plaster detailing, and a palette of charcoals and mauves. The unique suites also contain strong visual character, from double-height ceilings and a vintage basketball court, to an unexpected indoor swimming pool accented by a ceramic mural by local artist Ben Medansky.
www.kellywearstler.com | www.properhotel.com
Mondrian Shoreditch London, UK
INTERIOR AND HOSPITALITY design studio Goddard Littlefair was tasked with creating the interiors for Mondrian’s newest hotel, Mondrian Shoreditch London. Acquired by the Reuben Brothers in 2020, lead consultant on the project Goddard Littlefair has transformed the hotel with schemes for the reception and lobby, the double-height ground floor cafe bar, rooftop restaurant, the UK’s first BiBo restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Dani García and the bedroom refurbishment.
The studio’s design research delved deep into the history of the area and the characters that create the colourful social fabric of Shoreditch. The interiors take inspiration from art and literature, including the traditional nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’ – due to the hotel’s close proximity to churches that feature in the historical rhyme. ‘We discovered that the well-known rhyme “Oranges and Lemons” centred around the churches in this east London area, with the site of the hotel at the centre,’ said Jo Littlefair, Goddard Littlefair co-founder and director. ‘The longer, and much less well known, version of the rhyme paints a wonderful picture of the city in the 16th and 17th century. The influence can be interpreted into the design of the interior in many different elements, from lighting to materiality.’
The BiBo restaurant subtly references Andalucia with its patterns and handmade tiles. Image Credit: MEL YATES
The reception and lobby feature artwork installations including a circular neon art piece that reflects off the bronze mirror, while at high level, large-scale gilded glass panels created by Studio Peascod take centre stage and depict a rising copper sun. Goddard Littlefair retained the hotel’s original strongly patterned floor and juxtaposed this with a concrete desk, pattina walls and reflective surfaces to create a strong sense of space.
Scabetti’s ceramic fish chandelier hangs in the restaurant
The design studio paid close attention to the cafe bar and rooftop spaces to ensure that the areas worked throughout the day as meeting, working and eating spaces that could transform at night into alluring evening venues. Each of the public spaces link together but also have a distinct narrative, always drawing upon the rich history of east London. Throughout the reception lobby and across the ground floor to Christina’s Shoreditch cafe bar, a pendant light fitting was designed as a contemporary interpretation of the gas lanterns that were used as local London street lights. Increased in scale and stacked in multiple tiers, the lanterns run through the centre of the spaces, drawing guests from the external lobby to the new bar area. This piece, along with a reception area pendant and bespoke floor lamp, has been produced by Hoad & More.
Hotel Bohinj Slovenia
HOTEL BOHINJ sits in a unique and beautiful location in Slovenia, with views of Lake Bohinj, the mountains and the church of Janez Krstnik. The new owners of the hotel commissioned architects OFIS to embark on a radical overhaul of the existing hotel on the site, including structural reinforcement, interior refurbishment and sustainable renovation.
Larch wood is the main material used on the walls, furniture and ceiling. Image Credit: ALES-GREGORIC
The basic volume was preserved with a new structure envelope of wooden framework. As well as creating new balconies and changing the overall mass, the frames provide structural protection against the region’s frequent earthquakes as well as incorporating gutters, wires, lightning rods and other utilities. Larch wood cladding covers other new exterior elements, giving the hotel a natural appearance.
the corridor between rooms allows guests the experience of walking through a traditional Slovenian monument. Image Credit: ŽIGA INTIHAR
The entrance facade is complemented by an extension with a new, larger double-height lobby, an entrance canopy and restaurant. The triangular gabled roofs of the old building already had recognisable elements on the entrance facade: they inspired the new composition of triangular elements that create a dialogue with the mountain tops in the background. The facade and new architectural elements are inspired by local vernacular architectural details and crafts.
The triangular elements of the exterior facade create a dialogue with the mountains surrounding it. Image Credit: ŽIGA INTIHAR
The interior consists of 69 rooms, the decor for which was inspired by local patterns, textures and furniture details. Long common corridors represent a walk through the construction of the Bohinj toplar hayracks. These traditional monuments of Slovenian craftsmanship stand along the villages around the hotel. The walk to the room offers guests the experience of walking through these vernacular structures – buildings that are unique to Slovenia.
all furniture, upholstery and lighting are unique designs made specifically for the hotel. Image Credit: ŽIGA INTIHAR
The common areas include a two-level entrance lobby, a restaurant and breakfast room, a retro-bistro with traditional terracotta stove, and a small conference hall. Chairs, benches, curtains, upholstery and lights are all unique designs made especially for the hotel. The lights resemble branches and give a very intimate light, while the chairs are made of felt produced from recycled plastic bottles. Larch wood is the main material used on the walls, furniture and ceiling.
Another important part of the hotel’s renovation was energy rehabilitation. When planning energy use, strict rules on efficient use have been taken into account. Borehole heat pumps serve as a heat source, and there is radiant floor heating in common areas and some rooms. The hotel has central heating and cooling control, and lighting utilises energy-saving LED technology and sensors throughout to limit any unnecessary lighting use.
www.ofis.si | www.hotelbohinj.si
Patina Maldives Fari Islands, Maldives
A RADICAL NEW example of biophilic design from Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan, founder of Studio MK27, Patina Maldives is set in the Fari Islands archipelago. The inaugural flagship resort from Patina Hotels & Resorts is part of the Fari Islands archipelago in North Malé Atoll, which offers remote isolation alongside a vibrant social scene that emanates from the neighbouring Fari Marina Village and Fari Beach Club.
The design concept involved keeping architectural lines respectfully low, taking care not to breach the horizon in deference to the all-encompassing blues above and below. Verdant landscaping envelops each of Patina Maldives’ 90 contemporary one to three-bedroom beach and water pool villas, alongside 20 studios.
structures are kept low, taking care not to breach the horizon. Image Credit: GEORG ROSKE
Kogan’s design vision is reflected throughout Patina Maldives’ accommodation, restaurants and social buildings. Public spaces are open, light and inviting and offer a communal beating heart with the marina village and beach club, which also includes retail and dining options.
Floor-to-ceiling sliding windows allow the villas to open to the outside on all three sides. Image Credit: GEORG ROSKE
Throughout the interiors, earthy colour palettes, subtle textures and matte surfaces are complemented by arcadian materials to create a dialogue with nature. Wood, linen, rattan, paper cord, stone and natural fibres extend out from the interiors, with the intention of blurring boundaries between the inside and out.
the Water Pool villa has open access to the lagoon. Image Credit: GEORG ROSKE
Uniquely for the Maldives, floor-to-ceiling Panoramah! sliding window systems allow the villas to be opened to the elements on all three sides, while custom-made blackout blinds help to enclose the space when required.
the villas combine natural materials with practical and modern features. Image Credit: GEORG ROSKE
Millwork furniture customised by Studio MK27 exclusively for Patina Maldives incorporates practical and aesthetic design features that include bed frames with integrated control panels to concealed device charging compartments. The interior specification includes furniture from a wide range of international brands, including Bassam Fellows, Lin Brasil, Gervasoni and Vitra for the indoor areas, and Dedon, Carlos Motta and Paola Lenti outdoors. Other features include monolithic standalone twin vanities made from Nero Marquina marble and basins hewn from a single block of stone, offset by bespoke Italian porcelain tiles and al fresco free-standing double bathtubs.
Beaverbrook Spa Surrey, UK
DESIGNED BY Brian Clarke, the spa at Beaverbrook Country Hotel’s Coach House is a work of art made up of mouth-blown stained glass, Venetian mosaic drifts of handmade ceramic cornflowers and poppies and tilework. Clarke’s paintings and prints also appear throughout.
The light from the mouth-blown stained glass windows plays against the colourful tilework and ceramic poppies. Image Credit: CRAVEN DUNNILL JACKFIELD
Clarke said: ‘When they asked me to create an artistic environment for the spa at Beaverbrook, the idea appealed to me greatly because I consciously seek through my art in buildings to uplift the soul – and the spa historically, since Roman times and before, has sought to do the same. I derive considerable pleasure from thinking that the combination of the environment and the treatments that people receive there take away the weight of contemporary life, which is often so grim.’
In the transept of the spa, the ceramic takes the form of a floor-to-ceiling grid of tiles made by Craven Dunnill Jackfield, separated by ceramic poppies that interrupt and overlap with regular rhythm of the rectilinear matrix, a decades-long exploration in Clarke’s working. Starting life as watercolours, the handmade ceramic poppies, cut to lock into the grid of tilework, were made to respond to the rich light of the stained-glass skylights.
www.cdjackfield.com | www.beaverbrook.co.uk
The Langham Boston, US
LONDON-BASED HOSPITALITY design specialist Richmond International has completed an extensive three-year renovation at The Langham Boston. The project includes a complete transformation of the lobby, meeting rooms, event spaces and all guest rooms, as well as the addition of the Langham Club and a new bar and restaurant.
The design carefully considers the building’s location and draws on its history as the former Federal Bank of Boston. Richmond International curated the hotel’s new art collection, which includes existing and commissioned pieces.
The guest rooms and suites use a lighter and brighter colour palette as a nod to the traditional New England aesthetic. Image Credit: RICHARD MANDELKORN
Fiona Thompson, principal at Richmond International, said: ‘This project was hugely exciting for the whole team. We’ve worked with the Langham Group for many years on some of the finest hotels around the world, so we know the importance of integrating the historical and cultural influences of this fascinating building and city with a contemporary yet classic design that has become synonymous with the Langham brand.’
The lobby takes inspiration from the building’s banking heritage with bespoke furniture and lighting indicative of the space’s former life. A double-sided Chesterfield sofa, a modern take on banker’s lamps, and hand-tufted rugs replicating the colour scheme and motifs found on a dollar bill all help to create a warm and welcoming lobby area and help to soften the imposing facade.
A focal point of the hotel lobby, a bespoke artisan map of the city of Boston, has been produced using liquid metal on a cast resin base and sits behind the reception desk. In addition, the Rear Lobby has been transformed into an elegant entrance space with the introduction of a new, sculptural staircase leading to the ballroom, an ideal space for an intimate social gathering or for welcome drinks before a larger function in the Lincoln Ballroom.
W Rome Rome, Italy
SPANNING TWO adjacent 19th-century buildings on Via Liguria with 162 guest rooms and suites, W Rome offers a prime location ideally situated near the famous Spanish Steps and fashionable boutiques of Via Condotti. The hotel also boasts one of the city’s very few rooftop bars with panoramic views across the Eternal City.
The hotel spans two 19th century buildings in the heart of Rome
Designed by Meyer Davis, W Rome will see an unapologetically Italian colour palette and patterning meet a layered blurring of different eras of design. 1970s Italian glamour is a key thread throughout the property, with traditional architecture melting into colour blocking and bold graphic patterns in hues of burnt orange, dramatic red and foliage greens. An eclectic mix of colourful furniture meets stone walls representative of the building’s past, while reflective surfaces bring a contemporary feel to the property.
Guests are welcomed into the hotel by the W Living Room, featuring a striking skylight and a window of patterned glass allowing light to flood through the space. Seating areas are surrounded by sculptural pieces of art, while black and grey marble flooring runs throughout.
the WET Deck is one of the city’s few rooftop pools
Boundaries are blurred between public and private spaces within the hotel. Guests are invited to discover the unexpected with a hidden door in the public bathroom that leads to the intimate Parlapiano, a secret garden. Inspired by Borromini Church, a traditional stone church complete with kissing benches, lush foliage, topiary and water fountains, this space provides a tranquil escape within the hotel.
Local materials are used to tell the story of the hotel with traditional wooden herringbone patterned floors blurring into modern marble in the bathroom. A selection of the rooms offer private balconies and terraces with iconic views of the city, some overlooking famous landmarks such as the Istituto Svizzero.
www.meyerdavis.com | www.w-rome.com
Ace Hotel New York, US
LOCATED IN DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN, the Ace Hotel offers 287 guest rooms, an expansive in-room art programme, a public lobby with multiple bars and an art gallery, plus additional food and beverage outlets to come. Designed by Roman and Williams, Ace Brooklyn’s unique facade blends seamlessly with interiors inspired by the raw artist studio spaces of European modernists.
the bathroom includes industrial yet elegant elements. Image Credit: STEPHEN KENT JOHNSON
A 13-storey construction in raw concrete, Ace Brooklyn was designed from the ground up by Roman and Williams. Stonehill Taylor worked alongside as the architects for the project. Made up of metal, glass and precast concrete elements, the building’s rough-edged facade celebrates the natural beauty of its materials. Its dramatic centrepiece is a custom ceramic mural crafted by iconic modernist Stan Bitters, coupled with a sculptural light installation designed by Roman and Williams in homage to the Hotel Okura in Tokyo – a beacon of modernist hospitality designed by Yoshiro Taniguchi, which was sadly demolished in 2015.
The exposed concrete ceiling contrasts with wooden surfaces. Image Credit: STEPHEN KENT JOHNSON
Inside, interiors marry exposed concrete with other naturally textural elements – surfaces of douglas fir, oak, plywoods and leathers – to form organic, open shapes throughout. The lobby features vintage and custom seating, with half-moon windows illuminating the lobby bar in natural light.
furniture was inspired by European modernism. Image Credit: STEPHEN KENT JOHNSON
Drawing inspiration from Le Corbusier’s beloved workspace retreat Le Cabanon, the guest rooms were imagined as cabins of creative refuge. The furnishings were handcrafted from raw, understated materials, including custom sofas and chairs, cotton bedding and purpose-built, minimalist fixtures. The hotel’s in-room art programme was curated by artist Niki Tsukamoto, and brings together an assortment of original textile and fibre pieces from over 20 artists, many of whom are local.
Brad Wilson, president of Ace Hotel Group, said: ‘We see Brooklyn as its own city, filled with so much hope, possibility and excitement for the future. Ace Brooklyn has been a labour of love – a gorgeous building in many ways a reunion and a reinvention. We’re proud to have filled its spaces with the talents of many collaborators across art, design and culture; it’s a testament and tribute to the irrepressible creative energy of the borough, and a firm investment in its future.’ www.romanandwilliams.com | www.acehotel.com/Brooklyn
Hux Hotel London, UK
DISCREETLY STANDING behind a darkened door on Kensington High Street, inconspicuous and adjacent to the royal gardens, the Hux Hotel offers enigmatic luxury in the centre of the busy city. Soft-launched during the 2020 summer lockdown period, the Hux Hotel has 24 rooms and four suites, with a ‘rabbit hole’ feel designed to beckon the curious to explore and relax.
Ducking inside from the busy street, guests are quickly enveloped in a bold decor, leading to a lounge area that also stands as a fragrant cocktail den, live music spot and contemporary art space. Guest rooms feature bold but comforting colours, accompanied by contemporary lighting and modern bathrooms.